From the lush forests and rugged coastline of Maine to the dreamy white-sand beaches of Florida, our country’s Eastern Seaboard is brimming with picture-perfect landscapes, natural wonders, historic landmarks, and unique cultural experiences that draw newcomers from around the world. But the East Coast, which consists of 14 states and the District of Columbia, is also home to some of the wealthiest and most economically developed metro areas in the country, along with all eight Ivy League colleges and many other top-rated educational institutions, making the area a fertile ground for innovation and professionals seeking better job opportunities and career advancement.
So, if you’re considering relocating to one of the states that border the Atlantic Ocean, we compiled a list of the best places to live on the East Coast with the highest standard of living and a wealth of recreational opportunities.
With more than 17 million acres of forests, Maine certainly lives up to its moniker of the Pine Tree State. And as its most populous metro area, Portland is at the center of its cultural and economic life. The city, which just topped U.S. News & World Report‘s latest ranking of the best cities to live on the East Coast for its low crime rates and the overall well-being of its residents, attracts newcomers with its natural beauty, bustling art scene, and laid-back outdoorsy lifestyle.
“We’re afforded such an abundance of options to enjoy the outdoors: swimming, boating, hiking, biking, rowing, running, skiing, and climbing,” Jennifer Sweeney, a broker at Town & Shore Real Estate, told Travel + Leisure. “Portland is a walkable gem of a city on the working waterfront, marrying rich history with ever-evolving culture.”
She added that some of the most popular neighborhoods for first-time homeowners in greater Portland include South Portland, which “offers more of a seaside suburban vibe, with pet- and kid-friendly beaches and access to trails,” and Cape Elizabeth for its picture-perfect coastline, Fort Williams Park, and highly rated school system.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Located along the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth’s well-rated public schools are a magnet for families looking for a safe and picturesque place to relocate. This year, the historic city, which is one of the oldest working ports in America, is celebrating its 400th birthday.
“It is a small yet culturally rich city, with a unique mix of historic buildings, sidewalk cafes, exceptional restaurants, art galleries, theaters, jazz clubs, and boutiques,” Lynne Joyce of Tate & Foss Sotheby’s International Realty explained.
Another reason to consider moving to Portsmouth? New Hampshire is one of eight states that does not have sales or income tax, which, according to Joyce, has made the state and Portsmouth very popular with buyers relocating from Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and even California.
Boston residents enjoy some of the highest annual compensations in the country and plenty of job opportunities. On top of that, the greater Boston area is home to two of the best universities in the country — Harvard and MIT — along with more than three dozen other colleges, breathing a youthful vibe into the city. Boston is also a short drive or ferry ride from some of the best beaches in the country on Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. And if you enjoy mountain scenery, the Berkshires has plenty to offer. Boston also boasts some of the best hospitals in the country and a major international airport and port, connecting the city to the rest of the world. According to Zillow and Redfin, the median listing price for homes in Boston falls in the lower $700,000s.
“Options for buyers in Boston are limitless,” Dave Costello, a real estate agent at Advisors Living, told T+L. “The construction of luxury residences such as the Four Seasons, Raffles, and St. Regis offer owners a full-service lifestyle with a 24-hour concierge, doorman, and valet services. Those who prefer smaller, more quaint neighborhoods such as Beacon Hill, with its row houses, cobblestone streets, and gaslit lamps, can also walk to such landmarks as Boston Common and the Charles River. Leafy suburbs such as Newton and Wellesley are just a short drive from the city. Picturesque seaside towns like Cohasset and Marblehead are ideal for those looking to live near the ocean.”
Consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in Connecticut and one of the wealthiest areas on the East Coast, Greenwich has always been a popular choice for families seeking great public schools along with prestigious private educational institutions. Low property taxes, proximity to New York City, and world-class shopping and dining are significant draws, too. On top of that, Greenwich offers the quintessential coastal lifestyle with beautiful beaches, three marinas, and several boat and yacht clubs.
The only downside is that the town’s real estate market is notoriously competitive. “Greenwich is experiencing a ‘low inventory’ market and plentiful buyers…Properties ‘priced to market’ continue to receive multiple offers, and many are selling at or above their original listing price,” David Wilk, a broker at William Raveis Real Estate, explained. He suggested buyers should scout for homes fully prepared to make an offer if a house meets all their expectations, but also keeping in mind that “they more than likely will be competing with other serious and qualified buyers in the same price range.”
New York City, New York
Yes, life in New York City comes at a cost, but as many New Yorkers will tell you, they’ll never live anywhere else. The city, which is one of the top five places to move in the state of New York and one of the best places to retire, is a magnet for everyone from culture aficionados to media, real estate, and financial professionals. New York City is home to the best museums, restaurants, hotels, and parks, plus it offers proximity to world-class beaches, mountain resorts, and lakes. The city truly has it all.
“Buyers are and have been looking further afield with the abundance of hybrid work. That has driven a trend toward Brooklyn that was in place pre-COVID, but has continued at an accelerated pace. Downtown Manhattan remains hot — Chelsea, the Village, Tribeca, etc. — with buyers working in tech and hybrid setups driving demand,” Ari Harkov of Brown Harris Stevens explained.
Washington, District of Columbia
“As the anchor of our government, Washington, D.C. has one of the most stable and financially secure economies in the United States,” Roby Thompson, a Long & Foster broker, shared.
The city is also one of the country’s most museum-packed destinations, with all federal-backed cultural institutions offering free entry. D.C. is an undisputed architectural gem that provides its residents with green spaces such as Rock Creek Park and waterfront access to the Potomac River. Washingtonians spend their weekends exploring Virginia’s wine country, hiking Shenandoah National Park, or soaking up the sun on the beaches of Delmarva Peninsula.
“There are many desirable neighborhoods in D.C., and a few of my favorites are Cleveland Park, Capitol Hill, Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, and the upper Northwest area of the city,” Thompson added. “I’m seeing a strong focus on buyers wanting accessibility to Metro stations, as well as access to restaurants, shops, and things to do that are walkable from home.” And if big city life isn’t for you, consider smaller towns such as historic Alexandria, within an easy drive or Metro ride from D.C.
Charleston, South Carolina
Southern charm and culture abound in South Carolina’s biggest city and T+L’s World’s Best Awards Hall of Fame honoree. According to U.S. News & World Report, the Holy City’s oceanfront location and high-ranking job market transform it into one of the top 10 most sought-after cities for relocation.
“From the gorgeous sunsets to wearing flip-flops in January, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Lisa Horan, a broker at Long & Foster, shared, adding that the local real estate market has profited from tremendous growth.
“Homes here provide more bang for your buck than anywhere else. A home costing $500,000 here would be $1 million anywhere else,” she added. “Summerville, which is more inland, is now the hottest place to live. Our price point ranges from $300,000 to well over $1 million, so there’s something for everyone.”
And if proximity to South Carolina’s beautiful beaches is at the top of your list, consider Mount Pleasant and West Ashley.
Savannah’s postcard-worthy downtown area, complete with centuries-old oak trees draped in Spanish moss, is surely a thing of beauty. But the Hostess City has plenty more in store for potential residents. While the city itself is located on the banks of the Savannah River, if you’re an ocean person, you’ll be a short drive away from some of the best stretches of coastline in Georgia, including Tybee Island. Add to that Savannah’s newfound status as one of the country’s best food destinations, scenic landscapes, and affordable homes, and you get a good picture of why it was one of the metro areas that experienced a huge population boost in 2022.
Some of the hottest neighborhoods in the city for first-time homeowners include the National Historic Landmark District, the Starland District, Victorian District, and Skidaway Island, according to Staci Donegan, a realtor at Seabolt Real Estate.
“My best advice for buying a home in Savannah is to tour a wide range of properties and neighborhoods to see the best fit for your lifestyle. Also, be sure to have your financing preapproved in advance so you’re ready to make an offer when you find the right property,” she added.
“Countless cultures make up the threads of our community, and it’s this unique factor that really differentiates us from cities worldwide,” Ron Shuffield, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices EWM Realty, told T+L.
Miami’s iconic skyline, dominated by high-rises and swaying palm trees, is a good reminder of what life is like in the Magic City — you could be in a business meeting in the afternoon and on the beach soaking up the endless Atlantic Ocean views by cocktail hour. The city’s world-class nightlife, sports teams and venues, arts scene, great weather, and top-rated educational institutions are major draws, too.
And now is a great time to invest in a home if you’re considering moving to the Miami area.
“We saw inventory begin to grow again in the second half of 2022. The median price has dropped, and most single-family homes and condo inventories have recorded upticks,” Shuffield explained.
He added that condominiums are especially popular right now, but that single-family homes are a great option, too, especially if you’re looking for more land.
“Condominiums offer a very carefree and convenient lifestyle, and many buildings in Miami’s urban core allow for a high walkability factor. Our single-family homes and neighborhoods are known for being sprawling — a lot of tree vegetation and tree canopies.”
It’s easy to see what makes Jacksonville so desirable to both Florida and out-of-state newcomers – the city is home to 22 miles of white-sand beaches and the largest urban park system in the country, encompassing seven state and two national parks, a national preserve, and 400 city parks. And with 270 days of sunshine on average per year, Jacksonville residents have plenty of opportunities to enjoy all of them.
Real estate in the city is also relatively affordable ($312,639, according to Zillow), especially compared to other beachfront communities in the Sunshine State, offering a good standard of living.
Jan Shields, a broker with Watson Realty Corp, explained, “The hot areas remain the beach communities of Atlantic, Neptune, and Jacksonville Beach. St. Johns County, in particular, is a great choice for families with children because of the A+-rated schools.”